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Chapter 2: Articulatory, Auditory and Acoustic Phonetics. Phonology 2.1. Phonetics and phonology 2.2. Articulatory phonetics 2.3. Auditory phonetics 2.4. Acoustic phonetics 2.5. Synchronic, diachronic, comparative phonology 2.6. Varieties of English. The international spread of English. Regional variation. Accents. Standard English and Received Pronunciation. 2.7. Sound Change. The gap between spelling and pronunciation. The International Phonetic Alphabet. Homonyms, homo-phones, homographs 2.7. Sound Change. The gap between spelling and pronunciation. The International Phonetic Alphabet. Homonyms, homophones, homographs As shown above, the invention of alphabetic writing represented a huge step forward on the way to a simplified graphic symbolization of the words of spoken languages. Early systems of spelling were generally based on a one-to-one correspondence between the graphic representation and the spoken language, in other words one and the same sound (or, rather, phoneme, as we shall see later) was always represented by one and the same graphic symbol (letter) and a graphic symbol could only be pronounced in one way. (a one-to-one relation). However, as the pronunciation of many languages underwent important changes along centuries, the spelling did not always keep the pace with these transformations. The example of English is, probably, the most relevant, among the modern European languages at least. To the dismay of foreign students of the language, but probably no less to that of primary school native speakers as well, the gap created between the pronunciation of words and orthography in modern English is sometimes stunning: even consonants, a usually safer ground than vowels, can sometimes reserve unpleasant surprises. How can an average English speaker account for the variation from a velar plosive to a palato-alveolar affricate or fricative in examples like get [get], gem [ʤem] and gendarme [ʒɑ:ndɑ:m] or give [gɪv], gipsy [ʤɪpsɪ] and gîte [ʒi:t] respectively? Why should one and the same group of letters – ch – be read in three different ways in words like child [ʧaɪld], charade [ʃə’rɑ:d] and character [‘kærɪktə]? How can we account for the fact that words like four, cuff, laugh, pharmacy and lieutenant use five different ways for representing one and the same sound: /f/? The explanation that present-day English spelling actually represents (or, anyway, is much closer to) the pronunciation of late middle English can hardly sweeten the pill. The grim reality we are confronted with is that we have to separately learn the pronunciation and the spelling of the words of the language as any correspondence we might be tempted to establish between the two can prove utterly misleading.14 Suggestions have been made to simplify English orthography and “tune” it to the pronunciation of the words. It is precisely the extraordinary variety of the language mentioned above that seems to be, however, one of the major obstacles in this direction, as, it has been argued, spelling remains one of the major means of preserving the unity of the language. If it were adapted to the way people pronounce the words, then one and the same word could have so many spellings that different users of English could hardly recognize it. The need was felt, then, for a handier, more accessible system of graphic representation of the sounds that should somehow parallel the normal spelling but be based on a more logical, one-to-one correspondence with the phonemic system of the language. The idea of a so-called phonetic alphabet was thus born. At the end of the 19th century a group of phoneticians led by a French linguist, Paul Passy, created the International Phonetic Association and devised a system of graphic representation of sounds that was actually the first phonetic alphabet. Gradually, the system was enriched and improved so that it should not be linked to any particular language, but rather be apt to represent graphically the pronunciation of words in any language spoken on earth. Since the members of the association came from countries where the Latin alphabet is used (which is, anyway, the predominant alphabet on most of the five continents of the world), the symbols used by the newly devised phonetic alphabet are mainly taken from this alphabet. Diacritics are sometimes used to represent certain sounds. As far as English is concerned, some of its sounds (the interdental fricatives, for instance) are represented by symbols taken from the Greek alphabet, the respective sounds being found in the Greek language as well. Ever since the first phonetic alphabet was created, one of the main tasks of the International Phonetic Association has been to keep it updated, enriching and adapting it to the various different idioms as well as to publicize the changes brought to the alphabet. The alphabet of the International Phonetic Association, commonly called the International Phonetic Alphabet is the one conventionally used by all major language dictionaries and encyclopedias in order to represent the pronunciation of both common and proper names. It has proved to be an extremely useful tool, as it has the major advantage of using one and only one (always the same) symbol for the same sound disregarding thus spelling peculiarities that are often so puzzling and misleading for students of a language whose orthography is essentially based on etymological principles. Conventionally, the graphic symbols used to represent pronunciation are placed between square brackets. The distance existing between the pronunciation of words and their spelling creates a special problem in languages like English, one that is unknown to languages like Romanian where spelling is based on a phonemic principle. All languages have words that have similar pronunciations but have entirely different meanings. They have 14 Bernard Shaw’s famous sarcastic suggestion that English people should be consistent and spell the word fish as ghoti (gh to represent the sound f as in laugh, o to represent the vowel w as in women and ti to represent the palato-alveolar fricative • as in nation) is quoted by all phoneticians different origins, different meanings and their phonetic similarity is due to sound changes undergone by words that were originally entirely distinct. These words are called homonyms, the word coming from Greek suggesting their sameness (Gk.. homos = same). All homonyms have both the same pronunciation and the same spelling in a language like Romanian: e.g. mare (adj., big) and mare (n., sea), a semăna (to resemble) and a semăna (to sow), pot (1st pers sg. and 3rd pers, pl. of the present indicative of the verb a putea, can) and pot (stake in a game of cards), ceară 3rd person sg. and plural present subjunctive) and ceară (wax). The difference between spelling and pronunciation in English introduces a further distinction as words may have similar pronunciations and be homophones (or homophonous lexical items) but have different spellings. Two English words will be then homonymous, strictly speaking, if they are not only homophones, but they are also homographs (they are spelt in the same way). Thus, the modal verb may is a homonym of the noun May (the month of the year) or the noun type is a homonym of the verb type as they are both homophones and homographs, while pairs of words like pray and prey, meat and meet, sow and sew, will only be homophones but not genuine homonyms as they are not also homographs. We can come across the opposite situation, when two words are homographs but are pronounced differently: e.g. row (of chairs) and row (quarrel) bow (the weapon) and bow (the synonym of bend); sow the verb and sow the female pig.